australiantourer wrote: Both make a very subtle ratchet sort of noise when peddling, and I'm sure it's not a setup issue. Some hubs are positively and deliberately noisy, it seems.
If you are talking about a regular chain drive bike with derailleur gears, then unless there's something wrong with your freehub, it won't make any noise when you are pedalling. Coasting, that's a different story.
If you are getting noise from the drivetrain it is somewhere in the chain, cassette, derailleurs, jockey wheels etc. Even the bike frame can amplify the sound. It can also take a little time after new for the chain and cassette to bed down.
As for the technology having got worse, I was watching A Sunday in Hell the other day with 30 year old footage and there was so much chain noise that I thought they must have dubbed the pedalling sections with coasting noise.